The U.S. men’s national team will head into the FIVB Volleyball Nations League final round after clinching third place in pool play.
Team USA finished up preliminary-round play Sunday by sweeping host Italy in Modena, 25-23, 25-17, 29-27.
The Americans won 11 of 15 matches in the prelims, producing 33 points for third place. France, which defeated the U.S. on Friday, tops the standings with 35 points, followed by Russia, with 34. France is host to the final round, which begins July 4 in Lille.
Two-time Olympian Matt Anderson led the U.S. with 19 points and 15 kills Sunday. T.J. DeFalco had 15 points, including 13 kills, and two-time Olympian David Smith had a team-high four blocks. Italy had beaten the U.S. in four of the last five meetings.
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The U.S. won six of its final eight matches, losing only to France and Russia, both in the final weekend. A loss to Russia on Saturday, by the scores of 25-23, 25-15, 25-23, came as coach John Speraw rested most of his starters as a berth in the final round was already secured.
Team USA’s match against France on Friday was a five-set thriller. France prevailed 25-21, 23-25, 26-28, 25-20, 15-12. Then, on Sunday, France swept Russia in three games.
Joining France, Russia and the U.S. in the final will be No. 4 Serbia, No. 5 Brazil, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, and No. 6 Poland, the reigning world champion.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is sports editor of the Cape Cod Times and a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.